Provoking big debate about small agriculture
What smallholders need is a more coordinated means to link infrastructure, financial services and market access in one way
The question is not whether we need markets, but how we can shape the institutions and frameworks that organise markets to be more inclusive and resilient.
Markets work against smallholders and agricultural labourers for the simple reason that they both exercise little power in their ability to negotiate. Empowering these people is ultimately the only way in which they will be able to secure a better share of the value chain
Creating the institutional structure where [small-scale farmers] can stand on their own two feet will be the most sustainable solution to this whole debate.
We are not interested in Europe-only solutions on corporate social responsibility. We are interested in global solutions and how Europe can participate in those.
Small-scale agriculture is well and truly back in the development spotlight — as the future to global food security, a route to rural poverty reduction, a steward of natural resources and a key to climate change mitigation and adaptation.
But if the need to support small-scale agriculture is agreed, the way forward remains highly contested. There is certainly a role for markets and the private sector. Indeed, many development policymakers and practitioners speak about ‘making markets work for the poor’ as the key to securing economic development, growth and prosperity.
But how best can we do that? Should we emphasise markets or rights? Is large agribusiness a partner in development, or a driver of exclusion? Do we support smallholders or wage labourers? How do we ensure the most vulnerable and marginalised benefit?
An IIED/Hivos knowledge programme, Small Producer Agency in the Globalised Market, has sought to stimulate debate on these issues that are ‘stuck’, through a travelling series of provocative seminars across Europe — in The Hague, Stockholm, Paris, Manchester and Brussels. The ‘provocations’ brought new and challenging insights on the role of markets and business in the future of smallholder agriculture.
Holding the ‘provocations’ in Europe was no accident. By contesting conventional wisdom and presenting fresh perspectives in European powerhouses, the knowledge programme got up close and personal to those within the development community — donors, investors, researchers and businesses — who hold real power and influence in shaping pro-poor markets.